Theresa McNamee: Snowballs of love from south Armagh matriarch
THERESA McNamee's two great loves in her life were faith and family, both of which she served very well.
She lived by the commandment 'Love God and love your neighbour'.
The 30 pilgrimages she made to Lourdes were testament to her devotion to Our Lady. There were as many trips to Knock and St Bridget’s stream.
As her funeral heard, she was a connoisseur in holy water and had Lourdes at the top - reserved perhaps for blessing a new-born baby - while St Bridget’s stream may have been used for a new car.
Theresa was the mother of 13 children and, while raising a large family in very basic circumstances, she also looked after her father-in-law.
Her mother-in-law also lived with her until she passed away in 1976 and when her aunt was in her last years, Theresa took her into her south Armagh home.
Remarkably, she was also the caretaker of the local primary school for 25 years.
Any of these deeds would rightfully have defined Theresa as a kind and loving person. However, what really made her unique was the countless small acts of love she performed every day.
Theresa was the matriarch of the family, the glue that held them together, the beacon that they all looked up to. No matter where she went, be it the chapel or the Carrickdale Hotel, shop or school, bar or bookies, holiday or hospital, people very quickly bonded with her and were taken by her kindness.
When the grandchildren came along she showered them with the same love. I remember one time, when she was under strict instructions to give them no more treats, she wrapped the treats in kitchen roll and told them to tell others they were eating sausage rolls. You could not turn off the tap that was granny’s love.
Theresa was legendary with birthday and Christmas cards, always getting the right one. Having 25 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren, there were many occasions and always a gift with the card.
Anyone that came to her house was sure to be well fed and watered. I have no doubt there are restaurants that had a lower turnover than Theresa’s kitchen. A full Irish breakfast could be dished out at any time of the day.
Her generous nature extended to animals and every dog or cat that came about the house was thoroughly spoilt.
Theresa was never more happy when her house was full of family and friends having a party. She was a great host and would be there until the last while many younger than her had run out of steam.
When the singing would start Theresa would sing her favourite ballad, A Mother’s Love is a Blessing, and how well her children knew this to be true.
When her family and friends found themselves in the valley of tears at her passing they could look at the examples of how she dealt with tragedies in her life.
There was the death of her beloved husband David after 52 years of marriage. Her son David also died at the age of 46, her beautiful granddaughter Sabrina aged 33. In all cases, while she was a part of the grief and the grieving, she could still be seen to be giving sympathy to those around her.
When I think of Theresa the image that springs to mind is a photo taken by her daughter Sinead, showing her in her eightieth year throwing a snowball at her grandson David.
When this was taken Theresa was very frail in body but very strong in spirit. It captures the love she has for life, her endearing smile and her mischievous eyes.
All through her life she has been throwing snowballs of love and those of us who were lucky enough to be on the receiving end have had our lives greatly enriched.
I believe she would give her namesake Mother Theresa a run for her money. While she may not be mentioned with the great and the good she was undoubtedly both.
Theresa McNamee, of School Road, Killeen, died on July 25. May she rest in Peace.